Sculptures highlight Indigenous Pride

The Old Town Indigenous Art Festival took place this past week in Mankato. Anishinaabe artist Heather Friedli and her team worked on sculptures highlighting indigenous pride.  

Friedli has been working as a professional snow sculptor during winter months for about fifteen years, and is an oil painter and gallery owner in St. Peter.  

Friedli spoke about her team, “We all have indigenous heritage. My sister Juliana Welter is on our team, and my good friend Kelly Thune is on our team. We are creating a piece that is a shawl dancer with a bison in honor in the spirit on strong, indigenous women in the Mankato region.” 

In addition to these members, team member Maggie Thompson was unable to aid in the event this week due to her fundraising goals for indigenous art. Friedli shared that donations are being taken at Makwastudio.com.  

Friedli said that the event was, “A great way to get in touch, if you’re indigenous, with your own culture, and if you’re from the area, the people around you and were here before and the people who remain.” 

Friedli shared her passion behind the sculptures, “What I love about doing it is that it’s a full body experience of creating beautiful art. And by the act of creating with my full body I’m immersed in the act of creation, which is a wonderful thing. And I think by making these enormous pieces, it’s monumental art. It’s a way to bring the community into the art. It’s also performance art because we’re out here and people ask questions, people video, people post – it’s a great way to bring art to the people.” 

This is the first year the event is taking place. Freidli explained, “We were  brought here by Justin – he’s the organizer of the event. And he had gotten my information from Gregory Wilkins, who is a professor at the University. And so the indigenous department is doing a lot of funding for this event too.” 

In addition to the University of Minnesota, Mankato’s donations, Lakota Made and the Wooden Spoon have been large supporters. In addition to the live sculpting, the upstairs of the Wooden Spoon hosted indigenous history and cultural lesson taught by Megan Schnitker and traditional dances and drum groups.  

The event is in the planning for next year as well, and Friedli is looking forward to returning to Mankato. She said, “We’re just so honored to be here and honored to be invited. We’re so thankful to be welcomed into the community of Mankato. Everyone here has been amazing and generous and kind. So many good souls here in Mankato, and I’m so happy to bring a little of our joy here to share with you.”

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